Russia now controls much of Severodonetsk, the center of the battle for Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region.

Street fighting continued on Saturday in the eastern city, where Russian and Ukrainian soldiers are still fighting.

said Serhiy Heidi, governor of the Luhansk region, which together with the neighboring region makes up the Donetsk region.

“Unfortunately, enemy artillery simply dismantles floor-to-ground buildings that are used as shelters. In this sense, it is difficult because the enemy will be driven from one street, and then they will begin to dismantle neighborhoods from house to house with tanks, artillery and graduates ”, forcing Ukrainian forces in Severodonetsk are constantly moving to new positions and regrouping, the governor said.

In his evening address on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky praised the Ukrainian forces in the region, saying he is “proud of our defenders who can halt the advance of these enemies, these occupiers, for many weeks and keep our defense strong.”

Zelensky said the fight for the strategic city might dictate the outcome of the war in the east of the country.

“Severodonetsk remains the epicenter of the confrontation in the Donbass,” Zelensky said earlier in the week.

“This is a very fierce and very difficult battle…perhaps one of the toughest battles throughout this war,” he added. “In many ways, the fate of our Donbass is determined there.”

Severodonetsk is located in the heart of Donbassa sprawling industrial region in eastern Ukraine that has seen intermittent fighting since 2014, when Russian-backed separatists seized two areas there – the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic.

Hedayi said on Saturday that Ukraine was still in control of the Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk, where 800 people are said to be sheltering, after a Russian-backed official claimed that Ukrainian fighters were also trapped there.

“The story about the siege of the Azot plant is a complete lie spread by Russian propagandists,” Heday said on the Telegram messaging app.

Rodion Miroshnik, the Russian-backed leader of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, claimed on Saturday that up to 400 Ukrainian fighters had taken refuge in the factory compound, hiding alongside civilians in bomb shelters, and conducted negotiations for their surrender and the safe evacuation of civilians. It was continuous.

“The fighters are trying to make demands, which is to allow them to leave the territory of the chemical plant with the hostages and provide a passage to go to Lyschansk. These demands are unacceptable and will not be taken into account,” Miroshnik said. .

Ukrainian soldiers speak during heavy fighting against Russia at the frontline in Severodonetsk on June 8, 2022.

Death toll rises in Mariupol

Further south in Mariupol, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office reported 24 more children were killed on Saturday, following Russian bombing during a months-long siege in the southern port city.

The siege ended last month after Russian forces took control of the Azovstal steel plant, where Ukrainian forces had holed up.

This brings the total number of minors killed during the Russian invasion of Ukraine to 287, the Prosecutor’s Office said in a post on Telegram. The statement indicated that more than 492 children were wounded during the war.

The statement added that the numbers are not complete, as work is underway to verify the deaths of children in other places where active battles are taking place.

New graves at a cemetery in the city of Mariupol on June 2, 2022.

The bureau also said that 1,971 educational institutions were damaged by the Russian bombing, of which 194 were completely destroyed.

On May 25, an advisor to the mayor of Mariupol, Petro Androchenko – who has also moved into Ukraine-controlled territory – told CNN in Mariupol that officials believe that at least 22,000 residents of the city were killed during the three months of the war.

The news comes as the city battles a possible outbreak of cholera, according to a British intelligence report Posted on Friday.

The report said access to drinking water, internet and phone services is unreliable in Russia-occupied areas of Ukraine, reflecting concerns of Ukrainian officials at a time when Russia is rushing to provide basic public services to the civilian population in the areas it has occupied.

In his evening speech on Saturday, Zelensky said that “about 32,000” Russian soldiers have been killed since the invasion began. Earlier on Saturday, the Ukrainian military said Russia’s total combat losses since February 24 amounted to “about 32,050”.

CNN cannot independently verify Ukrainian figures about the number of Russian troops killed in the conflict and the death toll remains unclear.

Ukraine will surely win

A satellite image shows damaged buildings near the Palace of Chemical Culture in downtown Severodonetsk on June 6, 2022.

With Russian forces advancing their control of key areas of Ukraine, and civilian casualties rising, Zelensky remained steadfast in his position that Ukraine would overcome the Russian invasion.

In a special virtual address to the Shangri-La Dialogue, the premier defense conference in Asia, Zelensky said Ukraine would “certainly win” in its war against Russia.

“This is the confrontation between the possible, which we and many people in the world need, and the impossible, for which Russia is fighting so hard,” Zelensky said.

He added that Russia considers his country its “colony” and is doing its best to make it impossible for Ukraine to “live freely and independently.”

The Russian war is destroying Donbass, the besieged heart of Ukraine.  Here's what the region means for Putin

“Russia wants to make it impossible for our people to use their land, resources and water for their best interest. Russia wants to steal it, and this active plunder of the lands they (managed) to occupy – they are taking literally everything.”

“On the battlefield of Ukraine, the future rules of this world are determined along with the limits of the possible,” Zelensky said.

“Let’s save the whole world from returning to the times when everything was decided on the basis of the so-called right of force and when there were no consequences for certain peoples and their ideas and many nations,” Zelensky said.

The Ukrainian president also urged leaders to do whatever was needed “to break the ability of Russia and any other country in the world to block the seas and destroy freedom of navigation.”

Why is Russia accused of using food as a weapon of war?

Failure to do so would lead to “a severe and severe food crisis and famine” in many Asian and African countries, Zelensky warned. He added that the Black Sea, through which Ukraine exported most of its food before the Russian invasion, has become the most dangerous waterway in the world.

Since the start of the war, Russia has banned Ukraine from exporting goods from its ports, raising fears that global food crisis.

Before the war, wheat supplies from Russia and Ukraine accounted for nearly 30% of world trade, and Ukraine was the fourth largest exporter of corn and the fifth largest exporter of wheat, according to the US State Department. The United Nations World Food Program – which helps fight global food insecurity – buys about half of wheat from Ukraine each year and has warned of dire consequences if Ukrainian ports are not opened.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I am grateful for your support for Ukraine, and I am grateful for your interest in Ukraine, for our country. But please remember that this support and this concern is not only for Ukraine, but for you as well,” Zelensky said.

CNN’s Kostan Nechiborenko, Johnny Hallam, Masha Angelova, Joshua Berlinger and Maria Knight contributed to this report.